Sunday, April 28, 2002

Marketing analysis has always confused me. While watching Star Trek: TNG on TNN: The Nashville Network, an advertisement for a Hip Hop Dance Craze Jamz Collection CD was aired. Any two of those things together would have raised some questions, but all three at once left me a bit overwhelmed...
11:11:39 PM    

Robot Wars is the british counterpart to BattleBots. Robot Wars [RW] predates BattleBots by 5 years; RW was started in 1994 while BattleBots came about in 1999.

(I admit that I'm a fan of BattleBots. No surprise, there. I have been hacking robots and other mechanical systems for most of my life.)

I was watching RW and it seemed completely lame (which is surprising because most of the shows-- weakest link, who wants to be a millionaire?, whose line is it anyway? and a number of others-- imported from the UK were much better in their original versions). Lots of stupid flames. Multiple robots fighting at once, but not in a good way.

Worse-- any time a Robot is disabled, the "House" robots move in to basically rip the disabled bot apart. Effectively, RW "features" gigantic, overpowered, robots whose sole purpose is to destroy an already defeated robot in a context where the house bot can't be damaged. There is no such thing as a knockout.

End result?

A robot on Robot Wars generally loses exactly once. With each loss, there is a very good chance that your robot will be totally destroyed.

BattleBots is designed such that a loss may eliminate your 'bot from the current season's competition, but the robot remains intact enough that it can easily be repaired and modified for the next battle.

Even though Robot Wars attempts to take the flashy, explosive, super destructive, highly marketable path to success, this approach leads directly to cheap, slow and wimpy robots. The builders simply can't afford to invest a huge amount of $$$ into a robot when there is a good chance it will be utterly destroyed.

BattleBots takes the opposite approach in that it keeps things simple and doesn't actually try to maximize the destruction. As such, BattleBots robots tend to be faster, more powerful, and have much higher end engineering.

(There are a handful of robots that has competed in both contests.)

BattleBots is designed for the competitors. As such, the competitors-- all talented engineers-- are free to invest in creating the absolute best competitive 'bot they can afford to build and, as such, the quality of the competition is extremely high.

I'm not sure who Robot Wars is designed for. Silly drunks that like to see big flames? Not entirely clear, but it certainly isn't for the competitors.

The Robot Combat FAQ is an excellent resource for learning more about Robot Combat.

There are a couple of other Robot fighting shows on the air. There is the one with the Zappa character as announcer. It is amusing in that none of the Robots are anywhere near advanced enough to be able to consistently deal with the various obstacles. Many a competition ends with one or both of the robots foundering on top of a pile of bricks. Given a bit of time and refinement, it may provide a reasonable competition someday in the future. For now, boring, boring, boring....

(What spawned this whole digression was a combination of being ill and being terribly offended by watching otherwise perfectly good, but defeated, robots utterly destroyed on RW.)
12:55:37 AM